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Innovative farmers reaching large audiences on video

Topic: High impact use of ICTs in EASs

History of the case

Organizations which received rice videos in Uganda


Copies received















Upland Rice Millers


Tilda Uganda limited


Africa 2000 network


World Vision


Sasakawa- Global 2000


Centenary Bank




East Africa Grain Council (EAGC )


Uganda National Farmers Federation


Busoga Rural Development Initiative (BROSDI)


Nabweru Telecentre




In 2005 the Africa Rice Center (AfricaRice) started developing a series of farmer-to-farmer videos, where innovative farmers shared their ideas with others on camera (Van Mele et al., 2010a). AfricaRice actually started by adapting videos made with Bangladeshi farmers. Initially, researchers and extension service providers in Africa balked at the idea of dubbing Asian rice videos. Most thought that the videos needed to be filmed again, in West Africa, to make them culturally appropriate.

But African farmers were nonplussed when they saw the Bangladeshi videos (Van Mele et al., 2010b). Obviously the people in the videos weren’t African, but they were authentic farmers, facing real problems, and the African farmers could identify with them. From 2005 to 2008, Van Mele and colleagues filmed rice videos in West Africa with villagers in Mali, Burkina Faso and Benin who had participated in an FFS-like experience to boost rice production. These farmer experimenters were eager to discuss their findings on crop, soil and water management, and rice processing.

Farmers in Nigeria liked the videos from Bangladesh, but complained that the ones from nearby Mali were filmed on land that was flatter than the terrain in Nigeria. Farmers are smart; they know that landforms impact farming more than hairstyles or background music (Bentley & Van Mele 2011).

In 2009 these “Rice Advice” videos (from Bangladesh and West Africa) were translated into five Ugandan languages, and along with Swahili, English and French made available on multi-language DVDs. Disseminating the videos for mass viewing was a challenge. Eventually 20,000 DVDs were distributed throughout East Africa, about half in Uganda. The potential for impact was huge, but no one really knows what happened with the videos.

We propose visiting the above list of organizations during a three week period to learn how each one distributed and used the videos. Research questions will be framed as objectively as possible, centering on questions of impact and acceptability of the videos, e.g.:

·         How did extension service providers in East Africa perceive the videos from Asia and West Africa? Did they show the videos, and how often and to whom? What was their opinion of the videos and of ideas for future media-enhanced extension?

·         Did organizations distribute the videos to other organizations (and if so, what was their distribution strategy, how many copies to whom?)

·         What are the recommendations of those who disseminated the videos to improve future distribution and use of agricultural training videos? How can a feedback mechanism be fitted onto videos in the future?

·         The research team will invite constructive criticism of the videos. E.g. what problems did the service providers experience with them? What are their recommendations for improving the videos and service delivery? What positive and negative feedback did they receive from farmers regarding (1) farmers and not technical people were presenting in the videos; and (2) that these farmers were from another country?

Follow up visits to communities will help us find answers to:

·         What did farmers learn from the videos?

·         Did farmers change their behavior after seeing the videos, and if so how?

·         To what extent and how have farmers shared the information?

·         How effective have the videos been in reaching women and youth?

·         What did farmers think of the videos, e.g. were they objectionable in any way?

·         How can training videos be improved in the future?

·         Farmer suggestions for enhancing community access to agricultural training videos.

2. Proposer’s involvement

The study is proposed by Dr. Paul Van Mele, the former coordinator at AfricaRice of this Rice Rural Learning Initiative, who founded the company Agro-Insight in 2010. Dr. Jeff Bentley, an associate of Agro-Insight, led previous evaluations of these videos in Bangladesh, Mali and Nigeria and will undertake the field work in collaboration with Grace Musimami from Farmers’ Media, an agricultural journalist who coordinated the distribution of the DVDs.

3. What lesson(s) the case illustrates

Videos made with farmer field school (FFS) graduates give service providers something to take to villages and farmers’ groups to attract an audience and facilitate a high-quality discussion on topics of relevance to the community.

Uganda recently lost most of its staple food crops (plantains) to disease and needed to rapidly upscale rice as a food security crop. Slow and steady methods like FFS would never have reached hundreds of thousands of farmers in time.

As hard as it is to make videos, it sometimes seems like even more work to distribute them, and nearly impossible to get feedback. Yet feedback is essential to know how service providers used and judged the videos and how farmers grasped the ideas and used them in their own fields. This formal feedback is crucial for ensuring that future media is farmer-centered.

It is not enough to make videos; one must plan for dissemination and feedback from the beginning. This case study will provide advice to others on how to do that.

The study will make recommendations to enhance the distribution of agricultural training videos and build a feedback mechanism into videos in the future.

4. The importance of the Uganda rice videos for guiding future MEAS efforts

MEAS realizes that farmers find other farmers more convincing than extension agents. Yet innovative farmers do not have the time or the mandate to reach large audiences of farmers. This case illustrates a process innovation, using ICT as a way of scaling up farmer-to-farmer idea-sharing by several orders of magnitude.

The study will learn how the videos influenced behavioral change, as farmers began growing more rice (for food security and for market), and will discuss differences between men and women, and between farmers in groups and associates vs. unorganized farmers. It will also shed light on the importance of facilitation and support to trigger learning and behavioral change.

The study will guide future efforts to select topics for new videos (and other mass media) to translate videos, and to assess the degree of facilitation and support documents or manuals needed (e.g. not simply broadcasting them on television, but watching them in communities, with service providers who discuss the videos and respond to farmers’ questions). 

MEAS will benefit from new insights into how to improve the effectiveness of mass distributed multi-language DVDs for reaching rural communities.

It is much easier and less costly to translate videos (especially those with a written script) than to film new ones from scratch. Thus if videos filmed in Country A can be dubbed and shown effectively in Country B, that is a crucial lesson for keeping costs down. It is important to ask how farmers perceive foreign videos. Yet those wishing to film all videos locally are naive about the costs of doing so. Even they are not suggesting filming a video for each of the dozens of cultures in each African country. These functionaries just want to film a video for each country. As such, these are arguments for nation-building, not for cultural sensibility.

This study includes capacity-building, as Jeff Bentley will work in the field with Grace Musimami from Farmers’ Media, and help him to improve his documentation skills. This may provide lessons for MEAS’s future efforts to document their work.

5. Short technical note

In addition to the fieldwork in Uganda, Agro-Insight will write a short technical note on the experience in developing and disseminating videos in Bangladesh and West Africa.

References cited

Bentley, J. W. & Van Mele, P. 2011 Sharing ideas between cultures with videos. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 9(1): 258–263.

Van Mele, P., Wanvoeke, J. & Zossou, E. 2010a Enhancing rural learning, linkages and institutions: the rice videos in Africa. Development in Practice 20(3): 414-421.

Van Mele, P., Wanvoeke, J., Akakpo, C., Dacko, R.M., Ceesay, M., Béavogui, L., Soumah, M. & Anyang, R. 2010b Videos bridging Asia and Africa: Overcoming cultural and institutional barriers in technology-mediated rural learning. The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 16(1): 75-87.